Someone sent me a message the other day as a comment to my post about fast fashion, claiming that promoting second-hand/charity shopping is shaming poor people for buying fast fashion and “wanting to have nice things”. Of course, there are some issues when it comes to “sustainable living” and white/rich privilege glorifying the eco-friendly trend with fancy and expensive low waste sustainable products, I’m not at all denying this fact. Capitalism is everywhere, also when it comes to sustainable living/clothing and reselling. But I think it´s important to remember that being eco friendly is not about having the freshest and newest eco-friendly products. The best way to be sustainable is to use what you already have and consume only what you really need. Eco friendly means limiting our carbon footprint by consuming less.
Although charity shops have become trendy, it is not a privilege to shop there. Charity shops are cheaper than fast fashion stores, and the money you spend in these stores is going towards supporting the less fortunate in our society. When we buy fast fashion, we are directly supporting an industry that exploits overworked and underpaid POC workers, who are mostly women and children.
Just as we shouldn´t shame people for not having the resources or knowledge to buy ethical clothing, we shouldn´t shame those who are trying to make better choices for not doing it “perfectly”. We should all shame the companies that are exploiting workers and killing the planet to make their CEO´s filthy rich.
Not everyone can find the clothes they need in charity shops, and I would never claim that thrifting is for everyone. There is no one size fits all when it comes to sustainable clothing. But buying second hand is not the only option, and although sustainable and ethical clothing is more expensive than fast fashion because it has been produced fairly, we need to consider some other factors than price when shopping. Fast fashion has changed our perception of value from an idea of price and quality combined, to a synonym of bargain.
More garments than ever are being produced and pushed out to the public by fast fashion brand trying to keep up with the rapidly changing customer taste. Most of which are cheap and low-quality garments, that makes us consume and dispose more frequently. The fast fashion industry is based on built-in obsolescence, where companies want consumers to buy more clothes more regularly. The rapid conveyor belt of new garments that quickly fall apart or goes out of style is designed to be addictive.
Fast fashion brands are making us believe that we are getting good value when we buy $5 t-shirts and $15 jeans. They are cheap and convenient, but fall apart quickly and never quite satisfy us, so we go back for more desperately trying to fulfil our desire to have the newest most trendy items. Shopping has become a mindless activity where it´s all about having the most stuff. When people complaining that sustainable clothing is expensive, they usually don´t take into consideration that the clothes will last much longer than fast fashion brands because of both the quality and how we think about them. Cause how much do we appreciate cheap garments? Chances are we´re not going to give it much thought or attention. If we keep it or not is not really important, because it was so cheap, right?
Having a few high-quality, sustainable items will give you much better value than buying lots of fast fashion clothing that will last just a short while. I don´t blame or shame anyone, in the end we are all victims of consumerism caused by capitalism making us believe that we need so much. Everyone wants to have nice things. We need to normalise having fewer pieces of garments and be more conscious of what we choose to buy, no matter our background and income level.